National Parks raise fees to $35, not $70 as proposed in 2017

This summer, many popular national parks across the nation will increase their entrance fees from $30 to $35. Earlier this year, the Interior Department had planned to increase the cost of entrance to $70 per vehicle. This increase will affect 17 popular parks, including Grand Canyon, Zion, and Yosemite National Parks.

When the initial plan to increase costs to $70 per vehicle was proposed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, lawmakers, governors, and the public met his plan with a great deal of opposition. In fact, during the comment period, over 109,000 comments were made by people from both parties, with most of the comments voicing opposition to the drastic price hike.

One of the biggest fears of the opposing parties was that such a drastic increase in price would exclude large groups of people from being able to enjoy the public lands. As it stands, many families with lower incomes can afford to visit popular parks. If entrance fees were raised to such a high level, these families may never get to experience the beauty of American public lands.

Though the opposition is understandable, there are many valid reasons for why a price increase is needed. The main reason for the proposed entrance fee increase is to cover the $11.6 billion maintenance backlog the parks currently have. If the larger fee hike was approved, a lot of extra money would have gone to keep the parks and their facilities well maintained for current and future visitors.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said, “Every dollar spent to rebuild our parks will help bolster the gateway communities that rely on park visitation for economic vitality.”

However, since the increase that would have more than doubled the current entrance fee received such intense backlash, visitors will only have to worry about a small fee increase for now. Many people praised the decision to only increase the price minimally and gave the credit for this small increase to those who voiced their opinion against the initial $70 proposal.

To those who voiced their opinions through the public comment period, Zinke said, “Your input has helped us develop a balanced plan that focuses on modest increases.”

This new fee structure has been praised by many people, including Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Park Conservation Association.

“The public spoke, and the administration listened,” she said, pointing out that the initial $70 fee structure to visit popular parks was not favored by most businesses, communities, political figures, tourism groups, conservation organizations, and the public.

Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, a top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said the revised fee plan is “a big win for park lovers everywhere.”
He also said, “This is a prime example that activism works. The American people raised their concerns, participated in the public comment period, and made sure that the Trump White House knew the proposal was unpopular.”

Adding to the praise for the smaller fee schedule was Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee, saying she was pleased Zinke “abandoned his reckless plan to almost triple park fees on American families.”

However, Cantwell is still concerned about the lack of transparency in this new plan and the unavailability of a full analysis on how this new fee increase will impact park visitation and economies around the parks.

Thanks to the collective voices of many concerned private citizens and public figures, all families can enjoy the excitement of visiting the nation’s most popular national parks without breaking the bank. However, there will likely be more pushes for increased fee amounts in the future.

This altered fee schedule is concrete proof that the concerned masses can make a difference if they make their voices heard. Therefore, paying attention to important causes and getting involved in significant conversations is a big step in making sure that decisions aren’t made without the input of those who will be most affected.

This $5 increase will go into effect at most parks on June 1st. It will only effect parks that already charge entrance fees, and the $5 will be added to the existing entrance fee. For example, parks that charge $15 will soon charge $20, parks that charge $20 will soon charge $25, and the 17 most expensive parks, which charge $30, will now charge $35.

Many of the most expensive parks, which are also the most popular parks, are in the western portion of the country. These 17 most popular parks include Zion, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain and Grand Teton parks, as well as many others.

Though there are many parks that will be charging new amounts, two-thirds of the parks across the United States remain free to enter. While these do not include the most popular parks, they are still beautiful national parks with endless activities to enjoy and beautiful sights to see.

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